UNICEF rep Cynthia McCaffrey 3 tips on innovation to transform lives

Ramesha Perera
Wed 24 Jul

We live in a world of unlimited potential. A world in which mass connectivity, enhanced mobility and technological progress are all happening at an unprecedented pace. A world in which fewer mothers and infants are dying in childbirth and more and more children are getting an education.

Yet for all the progress the world is making, many are still struggling. Poverty, conflict, violence, and confining social and gender norms are issues that still need to be resolved or eliminated.

For the 1.8 billion young women and men aged 10-24 today, several distinct challenges remain. While more young people are going to school than ever before, in many parts of the world the education they receive is of unacceptably low quality. In 2016, nearly 200 million adolescents and young people aged 12–17 were out of school and many had never started or completed primary education. In 2017, an estimated 21.8% of young people (76.9% of whom were female), were not in employment, education or training.

The burden is particularly heavy for those who are marginalized—young women and children facing gender discrimination, refugee children forced to flee their homes, and young people in remote or impoverished areas without access to basic essential public services, let alone digital connectivity. As progress is being made in some geographic areas but not in others, those who are left behind are finding it increasingly harder to catch up.

Here’s where innovation can help. Emerging approaches and tools that come about as a result of new technology have an enormous potential to positively impact the lives of children and young people.

Cynthia McCaffrey, the representative to China for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) highlights three concrete ways to start:

1. Involve young people in every stage of your project. Young people are more than just the beneficiaries of innovation. They can also be partners in the development of solutions. Involving young people in every stage—from planning to development to feedback—ensures not only that your project keeps its focus, it also provides young people with a chance to be heard and equips them with real-world skills for the workforce.

2. Focus on delivering results for girls and young women. Data show that women are likely to be even more left behind because of the digital divide. The International Telecommunication Union states that globally, the proportion of men using the internet in 2017 was 12% higher than women while the GSM Association reports that women are 26% less likely to use mobile internet than men. Closing the gender gap means that we need to pay extra attention to making sure that girls and young women are gaining digital literacy skills and receiving opportunities to participate in the increasingly digital workforce.

3. Partner with Generation Unlimited, UNICEF’s global partnership to identify and scale-up solutions. Generation Unlimited aims to brings together public and private partners and young people to make sure that every young person aged 10-24 is in some form of school, learning, training or employment by 2030. If you have innovative solutions or technologies that can be developed, modified or scaled up to connect young people to education or new skills, let us know at genunlimited.org.

When we come together–public and private partners, and young people–we make innovation work, ensuring the best outcomes and future for us—and the next generation.